Count the Cost
Read: John 21:18-19 (ESV)
“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Our salvation is a free gift that we can’t earn (Romans 6:23). But does following Jesus cost us anything?
Do you remember Peter’s claim that he was willing to die for Christ (John 13:37)? Well, in today’s verses, Jesus confirmed that Peter would truly die for Him.
Jesus told Peter that when he was young, he was in control of his own life. He could dress himself, walk independently, and make decisions for himself about where he wanted to go. But Jesus warned Peter that at some point, when he got old, someone would take over. They would capture him, restrain him, and drag him off to be martyred. John noted that Jesus was referencing Peter’s future death. Jesus told Peter that “you will stretch out your arms” which suggested that Peter would die by crucifixion. Though Peter’s death isn’t recorded in the Bible, a Greek church historian, Eusebius, records the traditional account that Peter was, in fact, crucified. Because Peter refused to be crucified like Christ (because he was unworthy) he was crucified upside down.
After telling Peter of his future martyrdom, Jesus’ next words to His disciples are the same words that He used when He called them into His ministry the first time—”follow me.” But this time, I think the disciples had a much greater understanding of what it meant to answer that call. The invitation was free. They didn’t do anything to deserve Jesus asking them to come along. They were ordinary men. There was nothing special about them. They weren’t perfect. They were sinners. And yet, Jesus freely invited them to join Him. But all along, Jesus told them that following Him comes at a personal cost.
In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus told a multitude that being His disciple was costly and that before they decided to follow Him they should “count the cost” and decide if they are willing to “renounce” all that they have in order to be His disciples.
And yet the return is worth the sacrificial investment. Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26). You see, the cost is our earthly life but our reward is our eternal soul. Followers of Christ are asked to give up our temporary lives in order to gain an everlasting life through Christ.
In 1956, five missionaries to the Auca tribe in the jungles of Ecuador were speared to death when they tried to bring the Gospel to the unreached natives there. One of them, Jim Elliot, had once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” He had counted the cost and he fully understood the dangers. He knew it was possible that he could die. But he also knew that he was going to die someday anyway. We can’t keep this life. But, if he faithfully followed the Lord, he knew he would gain something he could never lose—eternal life with Christ. The benefits far outweigh the cost.
We also can’t miss the fact that Peter’s death may have seemed senseless but God had a purpose for it. Peter’s death glorified God! Despite Peter’s failure in denying Christ three times, his faithfulness even unto death testified to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and has witnessed to the whole world ever since. The spearing of Jim Elliot and the four other missionaries, who were young husbands and fathers, seem senseless to us. But their deaths also glorified the Lord. Their story has inspired countless people to sacrificially serve the Lord. Additionally, their widows continued to minister in Ecuador and eventually, many people in the area put their faith in Christ!
Friends, in Christ, we have been given an incredible gift, not of our own works but given to us by grace alone, through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). But following after Christ requires laying down our lives for Him. He requires full devotion. But the rewards and gains far outweigh the risks and losses. Have you ever counted the cost?
Lord, I know that You have freely invited me to come to You and follow You. Only by Your amazing grace am I able to be forgiven and restored in my relationship with You. But I know that following You comes at a cost. Help me be courageous. I want to take up my cross daily and lay down my life for you. Amen.
Reveal: Our willingness to sacrificially follow Christ is a bold statement to the world. How are you revealing Christ to others through the sacrifices you make in order to follow Him?
~ Pastor Nat Crawford